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Abby Dorman

Soc 115

Dr. Miller

December 10, 2013

Sociological Autobiography

While I could write about my life from a biographical standpoint

and summarize all the experiences I have had, it is much more

beneficial and informative to analyze my life from a sociological point

of view. So many outside factors, like race, class, and gender, shape

the things that I originally thought were only based on my own life

choices. The things that make up who I am go beyond my personality

and into the structures of society.

I was born in 1994 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as the first

child to my parents Tom and Lisa. They were both thirty years old at

the time and had been married for four years. They had lived in

Colorado for only two years after moving there from where they met in

Southern California. Both of my parents worked for Athletes in Action

when they met, my mom in the broadcasting department and my dad

in accounting. Before meeting, they had completely different

backgrounds.

My dad was born to a middle class family in Central Point,

Oregon in 1964. He has two older brothers and one younger brother,

and they were raised by my grandparents and regularly attended a


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Catholic church. My dads Catholic background taught him a lot about

religion but his faith really didnt become his own until college. He

would have fit into the category of the majority of emerging adults

described in Souls in Transition, who practice religious rituals growing

up but dont carry the importance of it into their adult lives. Fortunately

my dad did, which I will describe later.

My grandpa worked in manual labor for most of his life and my

grandma was a secretary when she wasnt overwhelmed by raising

four boys. My dads family never struggled to get by but they didnt

have a lot of extra money either, so my dad had to work hard to get

college scholarships and pay for his tuition. He ended up playing

baseball and basketball at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR and

getting a degree in accounting. He also accepted Christ into his life in

college, so that was a pivotal time for him. After that, he decided to

move to Southern California and work in the accounting department of

Athletes in Action because he felt that God was calling him into

ministry.

My mom was born in 1964 as well, and raised on a farm in

Nebraska. She has a brother and sister who are thirteen years older

than her, so she was basically an only child growing up. She grew up in

a very conservative family background, which is more typical to the

rural Midwest. Her family would definitely be considered lower class,

and this affected her because she had to work all through high school
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and college in order to pay for her expenses. After she got a degree in

broadcasting from Northwest Missouri State, she moved to Southern

California and worked in the media department at Athletes in Action.

Both of my parents were influenced by their religious backgrounds in

that they were moved to pursue a career working for a ministry

organization. They were also affected by being a part of the new

generational movement in which people started to branch out from

their home towns and start their own families far from where they grew

up. Until the later 1900s, people commonly were born, married, and

died in the same small area.

Striking out on their own, they moved to Colorado where my dad

later accepted a new job opportunity with Fellowship of Christian

Athletes. FCA is a non-profit ministry, so that means that all of my

familys income is based on my dad raising support. This is very

different from the stereotypical American dream, which says that you

can simply work harder to achieve more money and status. Also, this

type of family income was the only kind I have ever experienced in my

life. When I was younger, I didnt realize that our financial situation was

unique, but recently I have come to understand that it can be

financially difficult to live month to month since the amount of support

we receive always varies. In this way, our financial class is similar to

that of a pastor, and we would probably be considered middle class.


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Because my dad doesnt work for a boss or get paid in salary, his

working hours are a lot more flexible. This allowed him to be home a

lot more when I was younger, and for him to coach me in basketball for

most of my life. My mom was also a stay at home mom, partly because

she didnt want me to be raised by a babysitter and partly because she

developed Multiple Sclerosis two years before I was born. This

prevented her from being able to hold many different types of jobs

because her symptoms were so unpredictable. As both of my parents

were very involved in raising me, I feel like I learned gender roles from

each of them.

As I said, my dad coached me in sports throughout most of my

life. Sports are viewed by our culture as a more masculine pursuit, so

female athletes in general are stereotyped as masculine because of

their competitiveness, fitness, and ability. I felt that in order to be

closer to my dad I had to be interested in athletics, so I was definitely a

tomboy growing up. I didnt want to embrace a lot of the traditional

little girl roles like playing with hair and pretending to be a princess.

Instead, I wore football jerseys and liked to go to the gym with my dad.

However, I feel like I had a good balance of female gender influence as

well because I was around my mom all day at home. As I got older and

sports became a passion of my own, I found a balance between

societys pressure for female athletes to act more masculine and the
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other stereotype for females to act completely helpless and dependent

on males.

My parents also greatly influenced my work ethic and moral

values growing up. The first school I attended was very strict, and

there were always consequences for even slightly breaking the rules.

They had a specific format for students to follow from classroom

behavior to homework assignments, so I learned at a young age that I

couldnt cut corners. Also, the fact that I was an only child meant that

my family was one of my biggest socialization structures. My parents

attention was always on me and I couldnt get by with not doing my

homework because they were always very involved in my life. Even

though this was somewhat annoying to me growing up, I have realized

that the way my work ethic developed when I was younger was really

beneficial.

The study habits that I learned through middle school carried

over to high school when I had more freedom. I found that I was more

successful in academics than some of my peers because I had been

forced into the habit of always doing my homework and meeting

deadlines. In this way, my school acted as a major structure for my

early socialization as well.

As I grew up, the people around me also influenced the way I

viewed many aspects of race, class, and even gender. I went to the

same school from kindergarten through 9th grade, and the majority of
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the students there were from white, middle class families. I transferred

to a private Christian school for my last three years of high school, and

even there many of the families would be considered middle to upper

class.

The fact that the majority of my peers were white somewhat

perpetuated racial stereotypes in my mind. In my town, the areas

where more minorities lived were associated with crimes that we heard

about on the news. Certain areas of town had reputations for being

more densely populated by blacks or Hispanics, and those were

considered the more dangerous neighborhoods. Interestingly, my

first school was located in one of these neighborhoods, which was also

infamous for having many homeless people. Because the school

administrators wanted to protect the students, these people were

portrayed as dangerous. From a young age, I was somewhat biased

in my view of homeless people and minorities because they were so

often associated with crime and danger.

Aside from the occasional black or Hispanic friend, my biggest

exposure to minorities was foreign exchange students. My high school

hosted several Korean students throughout the years I was there, and

they maintained a different type of lifestyle than many of the rest of

the students. They tended to spend most of their time together, and

would often be heard speaking only Korean in the hallways. While it

makes sense that they would feel more comfortable speaking their own
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language and spending time with people of a similar background while

they were in a foreign country, it affected my stereotype of Asians as a

whole. I remember being shocked when I visited college campuses and

saw foreign students speaking English and willingly interacting with

their American peers.

Even my parents lacked diversity in their relationships. They had

only a few friends from different ethnic backgrounds, so I didnt have

much racial diversity at home either. Looking back, my lack of

experience with other races made them separate from me in my mind.

Racially, I actually probably experienced the most diversity at my

home church, although it was still majority white. The book Divided By

Faith talks about how the American church is commonly very divided

among races, and it is much more noticeable to the minorities than the

whites. Whites often assume that they dont need to go out of their

way to welcome members of a different race into their church body,

and the minorities therefore dont feel as appreciated. I think that my

church, a large non-denominational Calvary Chapel, did a pretty good

job of making all ethnicities feel welcome. Several of the pastors and

elders on our church staff were non-white, and we held a Spanish

service every weekend that drew in many Hispanic members of the

community.

Also, my church is located in a neighborhood that has a higher

Hispanic population, and our leaders do a good job of going out into
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the neighborhood and reaching the community. They have even held

outreach events that specifically cater to the Hispanic population. The

one thing I think they could do better in the area of racial diversity is

assimilating the minority outreaches into the rest of the church body.

Even though they do a good job with the specific Hispanic ministries,

many of the people they serve are still left feeling excluded from the

rest of the church events.

I was constantly surrounded by people who lived a life similar to

mine economically, so that shaped my view of class as a whole. I think

I often assumed that everyone lived life with the same amount of

consumerism and spending habits. No one I knew was willing to spend

large amounts of money on luxuries, so I didnt think that people

actually did. Only in recent years have I had first-hand exposure to the

living style of the upper class that once seemed so foreign to me.

The biggest difference between the middle and upper class

lifestyles is the willingness to spend more money for style rather than

function. When I grew up, my parents method of purchasing was

based on quality most importantly, but price was a close second. If

they could find a product that worked well and was also cheap, they

would definitely choose that over a more stylish, expensive one. The

search for bargains mentality is what drives stores like WalMart, and

appeals to the majority of the lower to middle class.


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Now at Wheaton, I am continuing to learn and grow sociologically

in the areas of race, class, and gender. Being around new people from

all different backgrounds has forced me to broaden my views on many

different situations. For example, one of my suitemates was born and

raised in Chicago and the other is from Zambia. They both have

completely different cultural backgrounds than I do, to an extent that I

have never had to deal with before. However, through conversations

with them I feel that I have learned a lot about race and different

struggles that minorities face that I was not aware of before. For

example, my suitemate from Africa shared with me about how she

struggled to adapt to American cultural ideas when they first moved

here. Things as simple as the way we consume food were different for

her, and she learned that the American cultures ideal body type is not

the same as what she was used to. This was an emotional struggle for

her, along with being exposed to the other stereotypes that our culture

has about African Americans. I never would have had knowledge of the

reality of these struggles without forming more diverse relationships

than I had in the past.

I have also been exposed to a different class stratification since I

came to Wheaton. The majority of students here are from the upper

class, and I learned that my familys annual income is far below the

average of many of my peers. While this may affect their spending

habits and the accessories they are able to buy, I have found that my
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friends for the most part do not think anything of class distinction when

it comes to relationships. I learned that class differences are mainly

represented through branding, for example owning brands like Apple,

North Face, and Nike. Those types of products are prevalent on our

campus, whereas they may not be on a campus that enrolls the

majority of their students from the middle or lower class.

Finally, I have even engaged in more discussion about gender

roles since coming to Wheaton. Since all students here are required to

sign the statement of faith, most of them approach gender from a

Christian conservation perspective. For example: women should be

homemakers and men should be the pursuers and bread winners. This

type of thinking helped to explain a lot of the Wheaton dating scene

and ring by spring mentality. However, I have also heard from people

who have more liberal ideals about feminism, dating, and

homosexuality. Coming from a conservative background, I fall more on

the traditional side, but I have benefitted from hearing intelligent

discussion about the other opinions out there.

Looking back on my life, I can see how the early impressions of

race, class, and gender affected many of the stereotypes and habits I

formed. My family, school, and church were mainly responsible for the

morals and values that I established and growing up. Things that I

thought were just a part of my personality in reality can be traced back


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to traits that my parents exemplified for me, and even things they

learned from their own parents.

By learning from my family and learning from my friends and

society, I have begun to form my own ideals about race, class, and

gender. Going forward, I believe that I have the tools to form my own

opinions about different issues in society. While sociology can help

explain many societal situations and phenomena, the only real answer

for evaluating life is Jesus Christ. He gives us clear instructions in His

word about how to treat people, regardless of their race, class, or

gender. In the same way that He loves everyone equally, we should

strive to as well. No matter how much I think I am able to understand

about the world through sociology, I know that none of the orders of

society would ever come together without Gods creativity. Just as God

created the categories of race, class, and gender, He created the

concepts of sociology to help us understand them and the influences

that guide as us we seek to understand more about the society we live

in.